After a season where the Chargers were one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, no one should be surprised that cornerback is near the top of the team’s positional needs for this year’s NFL draft. It’s not an immensely strong class that has a far-and-away best player at the position sitting atop the group, but it also shouldn’t be hard to find a long-time starter in this year’s first round.
One name that comes to mind for many is likely Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry. First, for his unique and rather awesome name and second, his strong play for the reigning SEC Champions.
However, that’s not who we’re talking about for this mock. We’re sticking within the Alabama roster, but it’s his running mate, Terrion Arnold, that was matched with the corner-needy Chargers at the eighth-overall pick by Yahoo Sports’ Jordy McElroy.
The #Broncos are in need of a long-term starting CB opposite Pat Surtain II.@caplannfl believes that @AlabamaFTBL’s Terrion Arnold could be that guy.— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) December 19, 2023
More on PFN: https://t.co/jCs4nOxyFb#RollTide | #BroncosCountry
While McKinstry has the name recognition, Arnold has the impressive accolades and resume all the same. The 6’0, 190-pounder was a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press who led the Crimson Tide with five interceptions during the 2023 season. His 16 passes defended also paced the entire SEC.
One of the biggest traits that stood out to me in Arnold’s film was his willingness to mix it up near and behind the line of scrimmage. It’s not often a cornerback tallies 6.5 tackles for loss in a single season but that’s the type of player Arnold was all year long. Just like in the video above, Arnold has the nose to sniff out screens and when he does, he sticks his foot in the ground and commits. I don’t think I saw a comparable play by any Chargers defensive back this year and I think that’s pretty telling of where they stand.
Per Pro Football Focus, Arnold finish the 2023 season with a 89.8 overall grade, good for 10th best in the country. His pass coverage grade was more than good at 86.0 but it was his tackling grade that really stood out at 91.0. That more than supports what I see on film.
We all want to forget Brandon Staley talking about pattern match zone/ passing off routes, but Terrion Arnold provides some teach tape for it here. Notice how fast he is able to break off, pass the route off, & take on the deep post. It's hard to see, but he breaks up the pass. pic.twitter.com/shCm6NDEsm— BOLTS Draft Talk (@BoltsDraftTalk) December 19, 2023
Arnold only has two years of starting experience at cornerback after switching from safety following a redshirt season so it’s understandable to be hesitant about taking him so early in the draft. The Chargers could probably stand to trade back and stock up on picks as they enter year one of a new regime in Los Angeles but if cornerback is as big of a need as it seems right now, I can’t blame the team for committing to the guy they believe will be a building block for the future.
What do you all think of this pick? Let me know all of your thoughts below!